Tag Archives: I have lived a thousand years

What You Missed While Watching A Thousand Years…

I bet that after watching our preview video, you may think that you’ve gotten all the juicy parts from Stretch Dance’s Stretch - Watchingproduction…but you’d be wrong.

Heck, I didn’t know what I was missing, and I’m in the show!

We had a chance to view the video of the whole show back when we filmed Applause.  To be honest, I thought I’d be bored rewatching the dances that we’d rehearsed over and over again.

Boy was I wrong.

It was an out-of-body experience for me.  It was surreal to watch the steps that I’d repeated so many times, and yet be surprised by moments in the show that you miss as a performer.  There are so many snapshots that stick in my mind—particularly of the scene about “Is It True About the Smoke.”

While performing, that number is a whirlwind of emotions and activity.  Not only am I rushing from costume to costume in the space of a few counts, but from one extreme emotion to another.  Not to mention I have to make it across the stage in four counts without running over any of my fellow dancers while still attempting to look graceful (that’s what we really go to ballet for all those years for).

But watching the piece…it was breathtaking in a totally unexpected way for me. To see the scared victims transform into the breezy, white dancers was quietly, profoundly beautiful to me.  It wasn’t my favorite number to perform onstage, but it was my favorite to watch.

And yet, as amazing as it was for me to watch the show, I couldn’t help missing something of my favorite elements while performing it: sound.

My sister—my inspiration for becoming a dancer—always jokes that dancers are meant to be seen and not heard, but it’s amazing how sound in dance can truly link up the dancer and the music.

Stretch - Breath
Some exhalations were choreographed into this number. It fit with the emotion and helped keep us together!

There are a few moments when we were choreographed to breath together, o.r for Jill to hum softly in parts of the show, but even just the natural sound of the movement contributed to the pieces.

I remember standing in the wings while Jill performed “Teen Vanity”—the chapter where Elli sees herself in the mirror for the first time after being shaved and starved.  I couldn’t see her at all, but I could hear her strangled breathing, the hard thud as she executed a huge leap, the soft swish as she turned.

These sounds made the taped soundtrack a living collaboration between the musician and the dancer.

So next time you have a chance to see live theater—Stretch Dance Co.’s new performance or otherwise—go out and see it.  Don’t settle for a recording, or a photo, or even a blog entry.

You’ll never know what you may miss.

Stretch - Denai White Words

Guest Post: Designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years

Gabriella Rose Lamboy is Stretch Dance Co.’s costume  designer.  Gabriella talks about the challenges she faced designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years that was both realistic and accommodating to the  demanding choreography for the dancers.  

Stretch - Costumes
Though the costumes look uniform, each has its own details depending on the dancer

I wanted to be historically accurate when designing the women’s prisoner uniforms, but I also needed to accommodate the dancers.  The actual uniforms were made with a very stiff, scratchy cotton fabric – which is not ideal to dance in.

I spent a day in the LA Fashion District on a hunt for the right charcoal grey fabric. The hard part was finding a fabric that was stretchy, but would still appear thick onstage. After a full day’s search, I finally found the perfect fabric in the last store I went to! The rest of my shopping list was easy: notions, buttons and paint.

I started by using a regular men’s polo shirt as a pattern. I cut it into sections and made the pieces longer to create more of a dress-like shape. I then sewed all the pieces together, added buttons, and hemmed the dresses. But was I finished?

Not quite.

After creating eight perfect uniforms it was time to grunge down. I used a seam ripper to distress the uniforms, adding frayed edges and ripping holes. Some uniforms got a bit extra treatment because they needed to look more worn for the women who had been imprisoned longer.

Stretch - Makeup
Gabriella’s costumes meshed perfectly with Brittany Vardakas’ makeup.

As a finishing touch, I watered down acrylic paint and used a sponge to add dirt and sweat stains, focusing on the areas that would get the grossest: the bottom hem and underarms.

But that wasn’t quite enough.  To complete the look, I spattered various yellows and browns to give the look of mud and other unmentionable stains. Lyndell wanted the dancers to feel disgusted putting the costumes on, and I think I was able to achieve that. (Laura’s note: object achieved!)

The most rewarding part of this experience was getting to see my costumes transform into the people from the memoir under the stage lights. It was emotional–and a little bit sickening–how real the grotesque makeup and costumes seemed.

This is a very powerful show and I am excited to see how it transforms to better educate future generations.

–Gabriella Rose Lamboy

Gabriella
Gabriella looking fierce!

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: A Tale of Compassion

I’ve run into a bit of a conundrum when discussing I Have Live a Thousand Years to friends.  I get very excited talking about the company, but I often lose them a bit when I explain that our production is about the Holocaust.

“Isn’t that depressing?”  They ask.

Well, it is and it isn’t.

Stretch - Witold Pilecki
One of the Holocaust’s unsung heroes: Witold Pilecki was voluntarily imprisoned for 3 years in a concentration camp to gain intelligence about the camps for the Allies.

The Holocaust is inarguably one of the greatest tragedies of the modern age, but for every tale of incredible horror, there is an equally incredible tale of heroism.  I recently came across one survivor’s incredible story and his cunning and courage had me floored the entire time. If you have a few minutes, you have to listen to how he successfully escaped from the concentration camps…twice.  It’s unbelievable.

I think that people often get bogged down when faced with situations as terrible and terrifying as the Holocaust, and often believe that they are too small to change anything in something as huge as say, the Nazi movement.

What I love about Livia Bitton-Jackon’s account is the incredible thread of hope and compassion that she sustains throughout her ordeal.  Bitton-Jackson, known as Ellie in her memoir, survives thanks to incredibly small acts of compassion, but those small acts often save her life.

It is as simple as a Nazi guard not reporting her when she is visited by her neighbors, of fellow Jewish prisoners risking their lives to move Ellie’s mother out of the infirmary before she was scheduled to be killed, or even the Angel of Death himself, Josef Mengele, telling Ellie to lie about her age when she steps into Auschwitz (starting next week I’ll start a brief Cliff Notes version of the book so you can follow along!).

Many of these acts you can’t even really call kindnesses, such as a guard nearly beating her to death instead of executing her, but that fraction of an ounce of mercy vouchsafes her another day of life.  Yes, her story is still a terrifying account of the evil of mankind, but also of the incredible strength of even the tiniest doses of human compassion.

It is so humbling to work with this material and the irrepressible hope of these people even as they systematically murdered.  It is also inspiring to see that no act of kindness, of compassion is useless.  Ellie’s proves that even the tiniest of gestures can mean the difference between life and death, between hope and despair.

Stretch - Dancers
The dancers are pretty inspiring, too!

We can turn away from images of cruelty—and it is natural to do so.  But it is only by facing the truth of what happened then that we can confront what is happening now, and what will happen in the future.

“It is your generation’s responsibility to rebuke racism, anti-Semitism, hatred, discrimination…to learn something about the past so that [the Holocaust] will never ever happen again.” – Emery Jacoy, Holocaust survivor